Lantzville taps won't get Nanaimo water

Lantzville residents turning on the taps won’t get a drink of Nanaimo water anytime soon.

The City of Nanaimo announced it won’t extend its water supply to the District of Lantzville.

The two municipalities have worked toward a water agreement since 2005, when they struck a memorandum of understanding identifying the desire to create a permanent link. Nanaimo continues to provide Lantzville with an emergency water connection in case of situations such as a large fire.

Lantzville Mayor Jack de Jong said discussions might continue in the future, but the City of Nanaimo is dealing with a number of water issues it has to resolve first.

“This is not a dead issue, this is a postponed issue,” said de Jong.  “This is not the final word – we are hoping we can convince them to interconnect.”

Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan removed himself from discussions because of a perceived conflict of interest, as he lives in Lantzville. He said Nanaimo council is concerned about meeting the growing demand of its own population, which is expected to exceed 100,000 people in the next 10 years.

“If we had a wealth of water, it might be a different story,” said Ruttan.

The city is exploring a number of options to address demand, including building a $60-million dam and discussions with Nanaimo Forest Products to purchase water through the Harmac Mill water system.

Those options must also take into consideration the Douglas Treaty and consultations with the Snuneymuxw First Nation, said Ruttan.

Nanaimo Coun. Fred Pattje said the uncertainty of the city's own water demands led council to decide against an agreement.

“We have to come up with additional supplies for ourselves and we have choices to make and they are very difficult choices," he said. “Water is something that all of us need.  No one can live without it, it’s not like oil, gas, or wood it’s one of the basics of life.”

Eventually Nanaimo may revisit the issue from a regional perspective as part of the Regional District of Nanaimo, said Pattje.

De Jong said the lack of water is holding back development in Lantzville.

“We have not added significant housing for 10 years,” he said.

Lantzville council is continuing to explore other water options including revisiting looking at connecting to the Arrowsmith Water Service, although de Jong said he’s not sure how viable that option is. Other options include examining connections to lakes further inland.

The district also entered into a memorandum of understanding with Lantzville Projects Ltd. last fall.

The company said it is willing to try to secure funding to pay up-front costs of acquiring an affordable water supply in return for the consideration of a reduction of costs for future development or a latecomer agreement.

If the district chooses that route, it needs to find a source of water before the company contributes any money to help pay for initial connection costs, estimated anywhere from $4 to $7 million. The memorandum also states the acquisition of a new source of water should be funded predominately by new connections.

De Jong said to ask the approximately 920 residents currently connected to the Lantzville water supply to pay for hookup would be cost prohibitive and the memorandum was created to secure other means of funding without burdening taxpayers.

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